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High blood pressure

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Updated: 4/11/2007 5:50 pm
High blood pressure or hypertension (hi-per-TEN-shun) is a condition in which the arteries constrict and cause the heart to pump harder in order to distribute the blood to the body. High blood pressure is defined as systolic (sis-STALL-ick) blood pressure higher than one hundred and forty or diastolic (di-a-STALL-ick) blood pressure above ninety. In order for a patient to be correctly diagnosed with having high blood pressure, his or her blood pressure must be taken several times, with five minute intervals of rest between readings. More than sixty million Americans may have high blood pressure and about half are not aware of their condition. High blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the heart, kidneys, and brain without creating any visible symptoms. Common symptoms of high blood pressure include headache, dizziness, and heart palpitations (pal-pih-TAY-shuns). Long-term consequences may involve stroke, kidney failure, impairment of heart function, and plaque build-up on the walls of the arteries, obstructing the flow of blood. Important approaches to the treatment of high blood pressure are weight reduction, salt and alcohol restriction, tobacco avoidance, exercise, and relaxation techniques. In addition, prescribed medications may be taken to control blood pressure. If you feel you have high blood pressure, or have a history of the condition in your family, see your physician and be sure to have your blood pressure checked regularly.
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